Why Youth SRHR? Why Now? | She Decides


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Why Youth SRHR? Why Now?

15th March 2024

Bodily autonomy for all young people is one of the three focus areas outlined in SheDecides new Strategic Plan, alongside abortion rights and comprehensive sexuality education. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), which will provide our community with an opportunity to come together, celebrate the advances in SRHR and highlight where progress still needs to be made.

In particular, SheDecides will use the moment to put a spotlight on young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. We spoke to Lewis Emmerton, SheDecides Senior Policy Advisor to learn more about how, and why?

Tell us a little bit about your role at SheDecides, and your background before joining SheDecides?

"I have been supporting the work of SheDecides for four years’ in my role as Senior Policy Advisor. Within my role I keep a close eye on the global political landscape and analyze how political developments could positively or negatively impact the work of SheDecides. Working with movement members and partners I help to explore the different ways we can keep bodily autonomy issues on the political agenda and identify the key strategic moments to advance srhr and counter-backlash.

My passion for sexual and reproductive rights stems from my time working within the youth movement; inspired by young reproductive justice leaders and the camaraderie of youth advocates. The openness to exchange knowledge, connections and collaboration, acknowledging that this is a shared struggle to break down the barriers to decision-making spaces to right the wrongs of prejudicial policies that deny people rights over their own bodies."

What is ICPD and why is it so important?

"The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held  in 1994 was a game-changer for the sexual and reproductive health and rights community. Bringing leading experts and decision-makers from around the world together to discuss crucial issues like family planning, maternal health, and gender equality. What made this conference groundbreaking was the increasing recognition that came out of the convening – that reproductive health is a fundamental human right.

The conference emphasized the importance of empowering individuals, especially women, to make their own choices about their bodies and lives. Laying the groundwork for policies that prioritize access to contraception, comprehensive sexuality education, and reproductive healthcare services. Whilst there is much to celebrate in this anniversary year, the renewed political interest in this agenda offers an invaluable opportunity to address shortfalls in implementation including the barriers that young people face when seeking comprehensive healthcare and information."

Can you tell us a little more about upcoming plans for SheDecides on young people’s SRHR?

"At SheDecides we’re shaping some exciting plans – with a dedicated focus on advancing young people’s SRHR. This work is being shaped by the newly formed SheDecides Youth Advisory Panel to ensure that SheDecides efforts support the issues prioritised by our youth-led champions and youth allies.

  • We will launch a campaign focussed on youth srhr and the vital role it plays in achieving health for all. It will centre the voices, views and demands of young people and build a collective voice in support of greater investment in youth srhr. The youth srhr campaign will ensure that conversations continue from Benin to the United Nations Headquarters in New York at CPD, where we will bring policy makers and youth leaders together to discuss the pressing need of advancing ICPD for all young people.
  • We will be actively participating in the ICPD+30 Global Youth Dialogue, held in Benin 4-5 April – helping to shape the convening as members of the programme committee. With many SheDecides champions present, we will use this moment to come together and celebrate progress through a reception co-hosted with the Government of the Netherlands and use the sidelines of the dialogue to strategise on impactful ways to drive action for young people’s SRHR.
  • Building up to International Youth Day we will profile Champions that are keeping SRHR in the spotlight and support youth leaders to connect with the work of the UN Youth Office that will play a critical role supporting the implementation of the Pact of the Future as an outcome of the Summit of the Future convening."

What are you most looking forward to during this year of ICPD+30?

"I am really looking forward to connecting with and learning from inspirational youth leaders at the Global Youth Dialogue in Benin. It is fantastic that there is a dedicated space for cross-regional exchange – to celebrate progress and to call for greater accountability to advance the ICPD+30 agenda for all young people.

As SheDecides scales up our work on young peoples sexual and reproductive health and rights I am looking forward to seeing how a dedicated campaign can help elevate the rich solution orientated discussions in Benin and ensure that these conversations continue with decision-makers at the United Nations and remain prioritised."

What are your hopes for the ICPD+30 process?

"It is my hope that in this anniversary year, we can continue to broaden the base of support for the ICPD+30 agenda. In every country around the world amazing people, organisations and governments are expanding health access and supporting people’s reproductive rights and choices. This progress is all the more impressive at this time of polarisation – where coordinated opposition groups are working to undermine the global commitments agreed upon in Cairo. Through spotlighting progress and re-affiriming the benefits of expanding people’s choices I hope that we can crowd in more political support."

Where can I go if I want to learn more about ICPD+30?